SHAHEEN: WE MUST HELP STUDENTS MANAGE LOAN DEBT

On Senate floor, Shaheen calls for passage of Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act to allow borrowers to refinance existing student loan debt at lower rates

September 16, 2014

(Click here to watch Senator Shaheen’s floor remarks) 

(Washington, DC) – This afternoon on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) called for passage of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act to help borrowers in New Hampshire and across the country manage their student loan debt. The legislation, of which Shaheen is an original cosponsor, would allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at lower interest rates. Senate Republicans later blocked a motion to advance the bill.

Shaheen has repeatedly called to address the growing student loan crisis in New Hampshire and introduced legislation earlier this year that would give students access to a comprehensive online database to manage debt and better navigate repayment. Last year, Shaheen fought to maintain low interest rates for Stafford loans and supported the Pay As You Earn repayment plan to help students and families manage college tuition.

Shaheen’s remarks as prepared for delivery are included below:

Mr. President, I am pleased to join my colleagues in support of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. 

This critical legislation would allow eligible borrowers who took out student loans prior to July 1, 2013 to refinance those loans at lower interest rates.

Right now you can go refinance a car, you can refinance your mortgage, but you can’t refinance your student loans. We have heard from literally hundreds and hundreds of students, and residents of New Hampshire who are no longer students, who are trying to pay back student loans after years of having to try and pay back the loans and start their lives.

Supporting this bill is a commonsense way we can come together to help the millions who are struggling to pay back their student loans. 

This is especially important to us in New Hampshire because we rank 2nd in the country in average debt per graduate, at nearly $33,000. And according to recent estimates, almost 130,000 New Hampshire residents could benefit from this bill.

These folks need to see some relief from their student debt burden, which often comes with interest rates that are higher than what you’d pay for a home or a car. 

It is unacceptable to leave borrowers struggling with crippling debts when we have the opportunity to take action to address this growing problem today. 

And this isn’t just about people who are affected because of their own student loans; this has a ripple effect through our economy. I met with a group of realtors over the summer and one of the things they talked about was they’re seeing first time home buyers delay buying homes because of the cost of student loans.

To put this issue into perspective, let’s talk about the people this bill would help: 

I first met Calvin, a young soldier from New Hampshire, at Walter Reed Medical Center, where he was recovering after losing his leg from stepping on an IED. He was married, had a young child, and he was talking about the challenges he faced after he recovered from his injuries.

One of the most sobering things he told me was that his primary concern was not his medical issues, but rather how he and his wife were going to repay their student loans. 

Another college graduate, a woman from Durham, NH, wrote to me recently. She has a Master’s degree and is employed in the public service field.  She’s been working for 12 years, but has been unable to buy a home for her family because of the $90,000 in student loan debt she possesses. 

I’ve also heard from a woman from Stratham, NH, who has $150,000 in student loan debt. She has consolidated her loans, but still has a 7 percent interest rate, which accrues nearly $900 per month in interest alone. A lower interest rate would make a critical difference to this woman and her young family.   

This bill is so important for people in New Hampshire and across the country, and we should take action today for the benefit of all Americans with student loan debt who deserve a fair shot at the American dream and opportunities for them and their families.

I urge my colleagues to join me in support of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. 

Thank you.